The number of church leaders I engage with who have no process for saying “thank you” to those who contribute to and support local church ministry is shocking to me. I’ve heard just about every reason you can imagine.
But deep within those justifications is the real heart of the matter: Free-will tithes and offerings are quite simply expected of the people in the pew by many of those who stand in the pulpit. Why should you thank someone if you expect them to do it? That assumption is a fundamental obstacle to leaders who wish to create a culture of stewardship and generosity in their congregation.
The New Year is here. Whatever challenges you lamented or victories you celebrated in 2016, you’re beginning again. And that’s exciting!
A new year also ushers in a new ministry budget that must be funded. Depending on where you landed in 2016, you may already feel exhausted from having to start all over again. The good news is, more than $100 billion flows through religious organizations every year. That means there is plenty of money available to fund your ministry vision. The opportunity then is to harness those available dollars for Kingdom things, particularly local church ministry.
If there is one thing this election cycle revealed, it’s that politics will never be the same again. The traditional paths of communication, what it means to be a presidential candidate, and how to win an election have all been redefined. We’ll spend the rest of our lives trying to unpack and understand what just happened.
But pollsters and politicians aren’t the only ones feeling the effects of a shifting climate. Church leaders are feeling it, too, both in the offering plate and the pew. And those changes have tremendous implications on what ministry will look like in the future.
Vision-driven capital campaigns are all the rage, just like annual pledge drives and “Prove the Tithe” events were a generation ago. But my problem with hanging the success of your next financial campaign on vision alone is that it’s a big gamble. I’m not willing to take it—and neither should you.
I think I understand why the vision conversation feels so comfortable to religious professionals.
I love talking to church planters. Their dreams are big, their commitment is unwavering, and their courage is remarkable. I’m not sure there is anything harder to do than start a church. I admire church planters for so many reasons.
Any yet, I’m also consistently surprised that few have a comprehensive funding plan or even financial projections. You wouldn’t build a house without first talking to an architect, builder, and banker. You wouldn’t start a business without a clear path to break-even and eventually profitability. And you wouldn’t invest in a company that didn’t have a strategy, action plan, and financial models to ensure your capital is multiplied many times overs.
Endurance in ministry requires more than grit and personal resolve. It must be supported by a documented plan and strategy (which includes financial projections).
There are a lot of assumptions leveled from the pulpit to the pew about church giving. One very important one is the ongoing debate around electronic giving and whether or not it has a place in the life of the local church and the discipline of worship and generosity.
Seriously. It’s 2016. Can’t we just agree that e-giving is here to stay?
It is astonishing to me that we are still talking about why “we should” or “should not” offer e-giving options to church members and visitors who would like to financially contribute to the work and ministry of a particular local church. Yet that very conversation is still alive and well in many churches today.
There is a reason traditional nonprofits raise more money through this channel than most churches. They recognize it is more than a utilitarian effort or legal obligation. They know that connecting every dollar with impact is essential to building trust and confidence in the mind of the giver. And you don’t do this once but again and again and again. If you are willing to put a little thought into it, it will pay dividends for you.
Here are some common observations I share with churches related to contribution statements that might help you reframe the role they play in your ministry funding model ...